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'If we were to back down now, we would lose all credibility'

By Ed Koch

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Following is an advance release of Ed Koch's Bloomberg Radio Commentary for Jan. 25.

Anti-war and anti-American demonstrations were held last weekend in D.C. and elsewhere around the country by those who oppose the enforcement of U.N. Resolution 1441 against Iraq, by military force if necessary.

President George W. Bush and his cabinet members have repeatedly stated that if Iraq fails to cooperate with the U.N. weapons inspectors and to account for all of its weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. and its allies would use military means against Iraq.

I agree with the President’s position. Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction, and I believe a U.S.-led war will occur very soon.

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Saddam Hussein's material breach of his obligations under U.N. Resolution 1441 is reason enough to support a war against Iraq. However, there are other reasons as well. Muslim fanatics have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to murder Westerners, particularly Christians and Jews, with terrorist acts in the U.S., Great Britain, Indonesia, Yemen, Tunisia, Pakistan, Kenya, Kuwait, Israel and elsewhere. I doubt that even President Bush's opponents believe Hussein would hesitate to provide religious or secular terrorists with whatever weapons of mass destruction he possesses, including chemical and biological agents. Hussein has already used weapons of mass destruction in violation of international law.

It is universally accepted that Hussein gassed 5,000 Iraqi Kurds and tens of thousands of Iranian soldiers in the eight year Iraq-Iranian war. British intelligence estimates that Hussein is six months to a year away from developing nuclear weapons. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw recently provided additional reasons necessitating the removal of Hussein, namely the horrendous human rights violations practiced by Hussein's government.

The New York Times reported on December 3, 2002, that "Britain released a dossier of evidence today arguing that systemic rape, torture, gassing, public beheadings and mass executions of Iraqis by Saddam Hussein were the deliberate policy of his regime of unique horror." According to the Times, Amnesty International accused Straw of a "cold and calculated manipulation of the human rights situation in Iraq to back up the American and British governments' case for military moves against Baghdad." The secretary general of the group, Irene Khan, protested that "these same governments turned a blind eye" to earlier Amnesty reports.

Assuming that both governments failed to act in a timely way against Hussein's human rights violations, does that mean they shouldn't correct their moral lapses and act now? Britain and France should have acted against Hitler in l936 when he sent troops into the Rhineland in violation of the Versailles Peace Treaty, but they didn't act until Hitler invaded Poland in 1939. Is it not to their credit they finally took action?

Opponents of the war against Iraq demand there be no military action unless a "smoking gun" is found. They contend Iraq is to be presumed innocent of possessing weapons of mass destruction until such weapons are found by the U.N. inspectors. They are wrong.

According to a January 10 New York Times editorial, "Successive U.N. resolutions place the burden of proof on Iraq, not Washington or the arms inspectors, to demonstrate that all unconventional weapons programs have been terminated and that known or unaccounted-for stocks of biological and chemical warfare ingredients have been verifiably destroyed. The 12,000 page declaration Iraq submitted last month conspicuously failed this test. It offered no adequate explanation of what happened to more than 500 artillery shells containing nerve gas and 400 bombs suitable for delivering germs and toxins. It didn't credibly account for more than two tons of material used to produce biological weapons."

If those killer viruses were let loose by terrorists in the home cities of last weekend's demonstrators, would they change their tune or would they simply blame America for that too? Their protests are similar to those of Charles Lindbergh and his isolationist "America First" adherents, who thought the U.S. should appease Hitler at any price.

Today's isolationists warn the U.S. will not have the support of any Arab nation. Wrong again. The Arab Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, have agreed, according to The New York Times, to allow the U.S. to use their military facilities. Turkey has consented to the use of its airbases and territory for launching our army into northern Iraq.

President Bush accomplished a near miracle when he assembled a unanimous vote for Security Council Resolution 1441. That resolution was passed in the face of Russia's active cultivation of oil contracts with Iraq, China's resentment of the power and hegemony of the U.S., and strong opposition from Syria and France. France supplied Iraq with its first nuclear bomb-producing plant (Israel blew it up in l981), and France would like once again to become Iraq's main trading partner.

President Bush has demonstrated a will of steel and the ability to assemble a military coalition able to bring Hussein to his knees. We are not sending four aircraft carrier groups to the Persian Gulf, assembling 250,000 soldiers, and making other preparations for war to ultimately back down. If we were to back down now, we would lose all credibility with the Arab and other nations in the region, making it impossible for us to command their support and respect in the future.

Ed Koch is the former mayor of New York City.

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